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Year-end run-in begins with trip to challengers Darmstadt

With the last international break of the year now over, FC St. Pauli go again in Bundesliga 2 at SV Darmstadt 98 on Saturday (13.30 CET). At the start of the six-game year-end run-in, the Boys in Brown face a tough ask against a resurgent Darmstadt side who won 4-2 at FC Schalke 04 last time out. With the best team in 2021 visiting the second best, it has all the makings of an thrilling encounter.

After an extended break due to the Covid-related postponement of the home game against SV Sandhausen, the Schultz XI head into their six-game year-end run-in at SV Darmstadt 98 on Saturday. It's fourth against first. A meeting not just of the two teams leading the current form table but also of the best two teams of 2021. The Boys in Brown team have amassed an impressive 65 points in 34 games since the turn of the year, the Lilies 56.

The game also pits together the two most prolific sides this season - Darmstadt have racked up 31 goals already, while the Boys in Brown have scored 28, having played one fewer game. An exciting game is on the cards, then, a view shared by head coach Timo Schultz. "The fans can look forward to a very attacking game in front of a sell-out crowd," he said in the run-up. The home side have coped well with the departure of several key players in the summer, including last year's leading scorer Serdar Dursun (Fenerbahçe) and Victor Pálsson (FC Schalke 04). They also boast the league's best strike pairing in Luca Pfeiffer and Phillip Tietz, who have notched 19 goals between them and contributed ten of their last 16 goals.

The Boys in Brown go into the game full of respect for the hosts, then, yet also well aware of their own strengths, given that no other team has collected more points on their last six outings. "We're playing host to the league's top side and we aim to beat them, but it's a challenge," said Darmstadt coach Torsten Lieberknecht in the run-up to the game. Schultz, in turn, had words of praise for the job Lieberknecht has done before adding: "We'll have to work hard to compete with them, but we go to Darmstadt looking to get three points. We want to be bold going forward and go for the three points."

This will be anything but easy, of course, not least because the Boys in Brown have never won at the Böllenfalltor. After a three-week break, however, they go to Darmstadt looking to put that right with their usual brand of bold attacking football and a focused performance at the back, which will hopefully see them defend a lead at the top of the standings that they have held since early October.


Photo: Witters